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It's a … Baby! Boy, girl, or mystery – what you can expect at your ultrasound, and thoughts on the big revelation.
At this point, you are probably anxiously awaiting an upcoming doctor appointment. Usually, doctors will schedule an ultrasound between 18 and 20 weeks. For some women, this will be the only ultrasound they will have. You may be able to bring your partner, or another person, with you. You also may be able to get photos and/or video from the procedure. Check with your doctor to see what the policies are regarding the ultrasound.
There are two ways of conducting an ultrasound: trans-abdominal and trans-vaginal. For both, you will lay back on a table. For a trans-abdominal ultrasound, the tech will spread a conducting gel onto your abdomen, then use the transducer (the wand they rub across your belly) to transmit pictures to the computer. For an ultrasound in earlier weeks, or if the sonographer is having trouble seeing things, you may be given a trans-vaginal ultrasound. The tech will use a probe that is inserted into the vagina to transmit the pictures. It might be slightly uncomfortable, but not painful. In both cases, a basic ultrasound can last from about 15 to 30 minutes. Your OB uses this procedure to check your baby's growth, fluid levels, heart rate, movement, and to check for any abnormalities. Beyond these basics, this is the chance for parents to catch a glimpse of whether the baby to be will be a boy, or a girl.
Should you find out the gender? You know by now that the official pregnancy questions are “When are you due?” followed closely by, “Do you know what you are having?” Most people aren't easily satisfied to hear that, despite how cute you find kittens and tiny baby deer, you are pretty sure it is going to be a baby. So, do you find out?
There are reasons, both in favor and against, for finding out the gender in advance. Knowing ahead of time can allow parents to personalize the nursery, narrow down name choices, and start to bond with their little girl, or boy. Keeping it a surprise can build the suspense, give parents an additional thing to look forward to, and is in keeping with the experience of women throughout history. You and your partner can determine which path is right for you. Keep in mind, though, that you might not have the choice. Some uncooperative babies decide that they aren't ready to reveal themselves just yet. If you've ever seen a grainy ultrasound shot, you know that even the most practiced sonographer can be challenged to see what a baby doesn't want to show.
Ask your care provider if he or she offers 3D or 4D ultrasounds–many providers are now offering advanced ultrasounds right in the office. And even if you are not able to get a 4D ultrasound in the office, please keep in mind that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends avoiding any ultrasounds that are not for medical purposes, such as those popular “keepsake” ultrasound companies.
You may also want to consider if you want to reveal your baby’s gender to other people. it’s become more popular to do a fun “gender reveal” announcement, such as colored balloons or even a cake with certain colors for boy, girl, or multiples inside. Many bakeries will let you drop off an envelope that your ultrasound tech will give you with the baby’s gender inside to bake you up a surprise (no peaking!), or you can enlist the help of a trustworthy friend.